‘Every step and every movement of the multitude, even in what are termed enlightened ages, are made with equal blindness to the future; and nations stumble upon establishments, which are indeed the result of human action, but not the execution of any human design.’

Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767)

29 October 2016

On the Record | Trump’s Off-Hand Aside on State Competition Opens a Door on Policy

Please see my latest wire for The New York Sun, ‘Trump’s Off-Hand Aside on State Competition Opens a Door on Policy’:

Give The Donald his due: rarely is there a dull moment at a Trump rally. Last night at Geneva, Ohio, he ruminated on his “America First” economic policy. Mr. Trump returned to his protectionist message that companies moving manufacturing jobs out of country would be subject to a 35% tariff at the border. The he added a twist with the potential to reshape American enterprise.

“Our good jobs are going to other countries. So we’re going to stop it. It’s not even hard to stop it. And when they know there is that kind of a consequence, they’re not leaving, they’re staying,” Trump reiterated. Then, almost nonchalantly, he added: “They may go to a different State, and that’s different. Right? But they’re staying, they’re staying in our country.”

In a stroke of ostensibly unconscious genius, he recast a problematic policy into the promise of voluntary interstate competition, shorn of federal coercion. Free marketeers have always chafed at Mr. Trump’s protectionist program, which goes against every laisser-faire tenet of free trade, comparative advantage, and consumer choice. Yet they were faced with the fact that jobs were fleeing to foreign jurisdictions, leaving displaced American workers with few alternatives.

Mr. Trump assuaged these misgivings by focusing on currency manipulation, promising to bring forward legislation against Communist China and marking the Federal Reserve’s own easy money policies for contributing to what he calls in America a “false economy.” The limits of this demarche in enthusing voters were evident. Something more, to capture the imagination and spirit of American initiative, is needed.

Read more . . .

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My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.

18 October 2016

On the Record | Clinton’s Pledge on Debt Emerges as a Risible Claim

Please see my latest wire for The New York Sun, ‘Clinton’s Pledge on Debt Emerges as a Risible Claim’:

A risible headline comes courtesy of Hillary Clinton. “I am not going to add a penny to the national debt,” she promises. Raucous readers are permitted a moment to compose themselves.

Let’s be generous and take the former secretary of state at her word. Seriously. How does she plan to pay for the largesse of her presidential platform, be it infrastructure and research spending, enriching ObamaCare, subsidizing college — among other emoluments to its base?

Vote-buying is an art form among Democrats, who no longer camouflage the contours of their platform, summarized as any number of “soak the rich” vendettas, targeted through income, capital gains, corporate, or inheritance tax hikes. “We’re going to go where the money is,” Mrs. Clinton admits in a restatement of what is called “Sutton’s law,” after Willie “The Actor” Sutton. “We’re going to make the wealthy pay their fair share.”

Without doubt, a cheer erupts from Mrs. Clinton’s constituency, exulting over their supremacy over “the other,” ignorant that no one escapes the consequences of tax increases, the poor and middle class least of all. Revenge is a dish best served as cold comeuppance.

Read more . . .

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My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.

11 October 2016

On the Record | Trump’s Churchill Moment

Please see my latest post for the Quarterly Review, ‘Trump’s Churchill Moment’:

Donald Trump ‘explained’ Churchill to me. And, after the first Trump-Clinton presidential debate, Churchill reciprocated the favour.

The fame of Sir Winston Churchill, who served in several Cabinet offices and was twice prime minister, left me cold, for which I harboured feelings of shame and regret. His life and times certainly fascinated, but I was by no means a Churchill aficionado. Why did I not revere this Conservative hero as so many others did? Why did I not honour him as the greatest statesman of the twentieth century?

Definitely the man had a flair with words — his political speeches are highly quotable and his numerous biographies and histories written with a compelling simplicity. Indeed, Churchill was awarded the 1953 Nobel Prize for Literature for his multi-volume histories of the Second World War and of the ‘English-Speaking Peoples’.

Yet his political record was chequered. In 1900, Churchill entered Parliament as a Conservative representative, crossing the floor four years later to join the pro-free-trade Liberals. Not to be outdone, he re-crossed — and re-joined the Conservatives in 1924, saying famously: ‘Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat.’

Fluid party identity was the least of Churchill’s sins. His achievements in government were blemished by failure: inept tactical planning during World War I; returning post-war sterling to the gold standard at unrealistic convertibility; helping to precipitate the General Strike; opposing independence for India; and even losing the 1945 election after denouncing Clement Attlee’s Labour platform for requiring ‘Gestapo-like’ measures. Oxford historian and sometime Tory MP, the late Robert Rhodes James, in his Churchill: A Study in Failure, 1900–1939, chronicled the general public’s ambivalent assessment of Sir Winston’s early career. Why, I wondered still, the universal acclaim?

Read more . . .

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The wire above was written before the release of Trump’s ‘locker room’ comments Friday (eleven years after they were caught on a ‘hot mic’) and before his stupendous second debate Sunday night against Hillary Clinton. Public support remains firm.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted after the remarks were leaked ‘found that 74 percent of Republican voters said GOP leaders should stick by Mr. Trump’, The Washington Times recounts, while ‘about 41 percent told the pollsters that they would be more likely to support a candidate who continued to back Mr. Trump.’

Meanwhile, following Sunday’s debate, a ‘stunning’ new poll ‘showed Donald Trump has reclaimed the lead from Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton,’ The Times reports, ‘becoming the latest survey to suggest the GOP presidential nominee has put a bad month behind him.’ This latest CNN/ORC tally shows Trump enjoying a ‘2-percentage point lead in a national four-way race among likely voters’, with Republicans ‘likeliest to vote’ supporting Trump by 90 percent.

The ‘movement’ rolls on . . .

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My thanks to editor Dr Leslie Jones of the Quarterly Review.

03 October 2016

On the Record | British Tribune of Trade Could Steal the March on Trump’s Protectionism

Please see my latest wire for The New York Sun, ‘British Tribune of Trade Could Steal the March on Trump’s Protectionism’:

Britain after Brexit is wasting no time announcing to the trading world it is open for business. Minister of International Trade Liam Fox speaks of free trade with an optimism that must inspire envy in America’s market conservatives. Who can imagine government praising the virtues of free trade?

Economic growth, Mr. Fox asserts, is supported by three pillars of market freedom. One is liberty of trade, unshackled from state interference, since “the idea that governments should restrict the right of individuals to exchange their hard work for goods and services at an agreed price in an open market is one of the gravest infringements of personal liberty.”

Two is entrepreneurship, where “competition leads to innovation” that in turn “powers progress.” Three is competitive advantage, whereby markets “specialise in the production of goods where they have the greatest efficiency.”

Read more . . .

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My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun whose encouragement acts as a necessary inducement to write.